Island Girl (part 8)

After a few minutes of staring at the bathroom door, the cracked and faded white paint ignited memories of summer nights spent with his wife in a similar cabin, on a similar island not quite two miles from where he lay. His wife’s soft features backlight from the window, her gentle smile, her delicate hands and long fingers as they found his. The familiar sensation of mounting sexual anticipation caused him to harden.

He heard water trickling onto the shower stall and it brought him back to the present. After a few minutes he hollow ring of the metal enclosure softened and he knew she stepped under the spout.

Her teasing had ignited strong desire, it ran through him like a thirst. But it wasn’t a desire for sex as much as a desire to travel back to a better time. It had been years since he’d been sober when making love to a woman, and now, in the next room, as she stood naked under that dribbling stream, as he imagined her skin glistening with foamy soap, it was all he could do to keep from going to her, ripping the plastic shower curtain aside, and taking her. Then he wished it was his wife standing under that stream, and shame came upon him. She was a stranger.

He lay down on the bed and closed his eyes. Grief shrouded his heart and today. The desire for love thrust him back into loneliness. It ran through him like a current. Beaten down by memories that bit at him, he closed his eyes and felt the embrace of his wife. Her body warm and soft in his hands. The soft smell of her perfumed skin, familiar and perfect in his memory.

A bang against the shower stall caused him to open his eyes and stare at the wall in front of him. He could call the police, have them come to the island, but for what? She hadn’t broken any laws, and it was her word against her husband’s any abuse had taken place. He’d observed no bruises on her, except on her head. She could have hit that on anything. She was well-developed, no sign of an eating disorder or malnutrition. She appeared perfectly normal in most ways, except one. And that abnormal part, the compulsion to come back to his island and present herself to him, not only made him wary, but enlivened him, jolted his nerves and he feared the entanglements she might bring. Why should he get between a man and his wife? It didn’t matter if he beat her or not. Didn’t it take two to ruin a marriage? But he knew that was wrong. It only took one. The abuser.

The scar just above his left hip ached, and he moved onto his back. It had taken fifteen stitches to close the semi-circle of wounds, when he’d woken up from a blackout. It was in the alley behind a dive bar on 57th street, early last year. He bled in the cab on the way to the hospital. The driver kept looking in the rearview, his eyes wide, trying to see if that was actually blood, and swearing loudly about the clean-up he’d have to do.

The doctor at the hospital didn’t really care how it happened, but he had to ask anyway. Garrett didn’t remember, the truth at the time. Later, as he sat in bed, as the lidocaine wore off and his wound began to ache, he remembered the bet he’d made, with a drinking buddy, that he could pull his pants down and run across the alley, touch his hip on a lamp post and make it back to the bar in under ten seconds. He smiled as he remembered the look of surprise on his friends face when he’d actually pulled his pants down around his ankles and ran across the alley, his penis flapping, legs stretched far as possible, hindered by the pants. Then he remembered the fall and the sting of broken glass as it pierced his side. He thought it was funny until the pain set in and blood began to soak his shirt. When he looked up from his fall, still sitting in the alleyway, the small crowd that had gathered to watch the fool do his trick were gone. He was alone, pieces of glass from a smashed bottle of schnapps embedded in his side.

Now, as he lay waiting for his uninvited guest to exit the shower, it seemed ten years since that incident, instead of ten months, and he realized how closely he still teetered on that line he dared not cross. The booze would end him the next time he fell, of that, he was sure. If he started drinking again, especially here on the island, the one place he felt safe and himself, he didn’t think he could stop. 

The door to the bathroom opened, and she stood naked in front of him. He stared at her breasts, white-lined at the top where her bathing suit ended, then her dark nipples, slightly erect in the coolness of the room, at her stomach, flat and smooth, the skin darker then he’d expected, the small bellybutton, slightly protruding outward, and just below that, he followed the line of her inner hip through the tan lines there, down to her dark, neatly trimmed pubis. She smiled slightly and walked toward him. He sat still, his hands by his side, as she moved to him and stood close, her breast near his mouth. He pulled her close, sliding his face across her breast, his hands moving around, down to her hips. He held her there for a moment, his mouth on her tummy, breathing in her fresh scent, then turned his head away. “No,” he said, and pushed her back. She took a step away, looking him in the eyes, her expression openly confused for a moment before going blank. He turned his back to her and stared out the window. The yard was quiet. The breeze moved the tall grass. A chipmunk moved along the woodpile and disappeared in a crevasse of wood. Rose sat next to him and dried her hair with a towel.

“Put something on,” he said.

She silently got up and slipped into her clothes. He ached to touch her, could feel the want, like a sucking monster inside. It took hold of him and he thought for a moment he would go to her, but he let the monster stir, but die of neglect. His eyes never left the window. Thin clouds moved slowly toward the West.

5

Now fully dressed, she walked to the door and stopped to look at him. He felt her stare and looked up. She smiled, then walked out the door, leaving it slightly open. He sat in the room for a long time watching the clouds, the bushes angered by the wind. When finally he got up, the sun was almost directly overhead. He’d been sitting for longer then he knew. He stood in the doorway and watched her as she shuffled cards at the kitchen table.

 “Why did you come back?”

“I didn’t come back. I escaped him and this is where I ended up.”

“I can’t have it.”

She held the few remaining cards in her hand and looked at him, her eyes pleading. “He beats me.”

“Beside the point.”
“He’ll kill me.”

“Where are the marks?”

She threw down the cards and pulled the hair apart on the left side of her head. Just above her ear, the scalp was red. A curved welt revealed through her spread fingers.

“He did that?”

“His belt buckle.” She stared defiantly at him. Tears filled her eyes, but she wiped them with the back her hand and dealt the cards. When all the cards lay in a pile on the table, he sat down across from her. He sorted his cards until they were in a neat stack, then he threw down the king of spades from the top. She threw down the ace of diamonds and smiled. “You owe me a truthful thing about yourself.”

He nodded at her, staring into her strange light-blue eyes. “Go ahead, ask.”

She offered a slight smile. “How did you like it when I touched you?”

“You never touched me.”

“You wanted me to.”

“Did you want to?”

“Not really,” she said, looking demurely down at her hand. She shuffled the cards again.

The wind picked up and something hit the side of the cottage. He went to the windows and looked out, following the trail with his eyes down to the dock. The bushes and trees swayed in the strong gusts. White caps dotted the bay. “The wind has shifted.”

He’d leave his traps for another day. He turned to her. She sat with her back to him, looking at her cards. “I was going to go into town to buy some supplies. You can come, tell your story to the sheriff.”

She scoffed. “Why don’t I just hang myself?”

“Well, why the hell did you go with them, then?”

“They’d blame you. I didn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Maybe. But, you can’t stay here. Don’t tell the sheriff, it’s up to you, but I can’t help you.”

“Did I ask for your help?”

“Don’t be an idiot.”

She stood and threw the cards onto the table. The wind hit the cottage again. A loose windowpane trembled. After a few seconds she said, “I’ll go to town, but I’m not talking to the cops.”

“Fine.” He reached for the list off the table, but she snatched it up and began reading.

“Why an aluminum pole?” she asked.

“Ask your friend, Jack.”

“He’s Bill’s friend, not mine.”

“I thought they were brothers.”

“What does Jack have to do with the pole?”

“He tore down my antenna.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because it’s broken and he’s the only one who could have done it.”

He reached for his coat hanging by the door, then went to the back shed and got another jacket for her. She put on the blue windbreaker. It fit loosely around her frame and made her look small, fragile even.

He walked quickly, deliberately fast, like he was trying to get away from her. She followed him down the path leading to the boat, He held the small craft steady as she got in. Once settled, the wind blowing their faces red, their hair waving in the wild breeze, he pulled the starter and the engine coughed, then started, blowing blue smoke into the air. He reversed the boat, the waves slapping the stern, water spaying them. Finally, he thrust it into forward and they were off.

“How do you know which way to go?” she asked.

“I follow the path in the water, he said. ” She turned and smiled at him. He smiled back. “Can’t you see it?”

She turned back, and looked straight ahead, her face in the freezing wind, and said nothing else.

The small whitecaps rocked the boat and she held on, her hands gripping both gunwales, as water spray dampened her wind-tossed hair. She sat rigid, like a dog in the wind, he thought, staring straight ahead, never daring to move or look around.

When they reached the harbor and tied up at the public dock, he saw her hands were stiff and her face was cherry red. She rubbed her hands together and flexed her fingers. As they walked to his truck, he looked around for men who might be waiting for them, but saw no one of consequence. The small shack in the parking lot was dark. The man overseeing the operation was sitting with his legs up on the porch rail drinking coffee and chatting with another man, with whom Garrett was vaguely familiar. He waved to them and continued walking to his truck, the girl close behind.

They said nothing as he drove them into town, his old pick-up comfortable, if not a bit rocky. “You need new shocks,” she said. He grunted and kept driving without saying anything. They stopped in front of the Sheriff’s office. The girl looked straight ahead, as if they were waiting at a light. After a few minutes, he turned to her. “Do you want to go in?”  

“No.”

“Alright.”

He put the truck in gear and they headed to the hardware store.

After loading the truck with the new aluminum tubing and cable and other supplies, they headed for the grocery store. In the check-out line, as he was paying for their supplies, a tall man with dark hair walked into the store. He stood at the door, near the checkout and waved to Garrett. When the six bags were loaded into the cart, Garrett stopped next to Jim. “Jim, how are you?”

“Got a day off, been busy otherwise. Who’s your friend?”

Garrett turned to Rose, who partially hid behind him. “This is Rose. She’s my wife’s cousin, from Boston.”

Rose nodded at Jim. He reached to shake her hand, and his gun became visible under his jacket, on his belt. Garrett saw her bristle at the weapon and said, “Jim’s a Deputy Sherriff.”

“Off duty. Right now, I’m just a guy getting food for the family.”

After a few minutes of small talk, Garrett said, “Well, good to see you, Jim.”

They nodded at each other and Garrett and Rose walked back to the truck. She slammed the door closed as she got in. Garrett loaded the back with the bags and closed the tailgate and got in on the driver’s side and turned the key. “We can get lunch over there if you want.” He pointed to the Woodbine Café, a place he frequented on trips to the mainland. She looked straight ahead and said nothing.

He turned to her and she looked at him for the first time. He saw fear and hate in her eyes, and he knew she was going to accuse him of setting up the chance meeting with the Deputy in the store. “I didn’t know he’d be there,” he said, wanting to cut her off before she said anything. “Besides, you’re on the mainland, you need to go. Find your family and stay there, they can help you.”

“What do you know about my family?”

“Look, I told you before-”

She got out, slammed the door shut and walked down the sidewalk to the street corner. She stood under the Woodbine sign, and bummed a cigarette from a young man as he passed by. They talked as he lit her cigarette. She seemed flirty, like she’d go anywhere with him and Garrett didn’t like what he was seeing. He shut off the truck and walked over to them. Rose turned away as he approached. He touched her shoulder. “Let’s get going, Rose.”

She looked at him, while closing one eye and taking a deep drag of the cigarette. The young man felt the possessive vibe from Garrett and silently turned and walked into the Woodbine.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Nothing. I’m not doing anything.”

“Get in the truck.”

“Really?”

“Yes, just get in.”

She tossed the cigarette and he placed his hand on her arm as they walked back to the truck. They sat silently, the engine idling. She turned on the radio. A rock tune blared from the speakers. She turned it up. Garett leaned in and shut it off. “I don’t know what your game is, but latching onto the first person you see isn’t a healthy thing to do.”

They let the irony of that statement sink in, then he added, “You lucked-out with me. I only want to help you. But others, they’ll hurt you, use you…” he involuntarily looked at her body and she got the message. She sent a message back. She knew the power she held over men. It was obvious.

They sat in silence for a while and when he took a breath to say something else she said, “He’s not my husband.”

“What?”

“We’re not married. Only in his head. He’s got a fantasy that he’s married to me because he said so. But we’re not married.”

“Oh.”

“I just want to make that clear. He has no hold on me.”

“He shouldn’t hurt you, either way.”

They sat staring out the front windshield. He wasn’t sure what to do, drop her off somewhere or take her back to the island. A cold front was moving in. The clouds were high and thready. People dressed in fall clothing walked the sidewalks, cars stopped and started, smoke rose from tailpipes. He couldn’t think of what else to say that wouldn’t spoil things, in his mind. He wanted her, and he knew he could have her. All he had to do was listen to what she was saying. Desire flamed up in him and he glanced at her knee. She wore jeans, but he they were thin. He wanted to touch that knee, slide his hand up to her thigh, feel the soft flesh there. These thoughts surprised him. He knew it was wrong. The whole thing was wrong. It was like she was a gift. One that could make him feel so much better, fill his emptiness, but he didn’t trust any of it.

“I really don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. After a few minutes she added, “My sister lives in Portland, but she’s gone away with her husband for a week. They went to Florida on vacation. Guess I’ll go there when she’s back.” She turned to him and he saw her hopefulness. “Otherwise, I have nowhere else to go.” She touched his thigh, and smiled. “Besides, I can help you chop wood.”

She adjusted closer to him, and he could feel the heat of her. For a few moments, his crushing loneliness was replaced by her warmth.

“Let’s just go,” she said.

He nodded and put the truck in gear.

OUT ON AUDIBLE!!!

Dream State is out on Audible, and it kicks butt! Brett Boles, is funny, and charming and so GOOD narrating this novel! It’s a psychic detective novel, full of fun and characters that…

Well, here’s a review: “…This book was really good. It tells a fast-paced story with an interesting story-line. Private investigators are always interesting to read about, but one that uses his dreams to help find people make the interest level double. This book has action, mystery, intrigue, and great characters…” Four stars!

Dream State on audible and Amazon/Kindle.

August Chase is an ordinary man plagued by extraordinary precognitive dreams. When he foresees the brutal murder of a young woman, he tracks her down to warn her. His warnings go unheeded, and the dreamed murder becomes a reality. The victim’s sister, frustrated by slow police work, enlists August’s help, and he is launched into his first case as a private investigator. Delving deep into the victim’s life, he soon discovers a common thread in the shadowy world that may have claimed her. This is book One of the August Chase Mystery Series.


5.0 out of 5 stars
 A mash-up somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Doctor Strange.Reviewed in the United States on April 3, 2017Verified PurchaseI quite enjoyed Charles R. Hinckley’s novel, Dream State.
The psychic detective genre, in general, is a tricky one, a mash-up somewhere between Raymond Chandler and Doctor Strange. Hinckley pulls it off by writing well. He grounds his characters solidly in a New York I could recognize, and gives them realistic, often humorous dialog. This makes the fantastical excursions into August Chase’s pre-cognitive “dream state” more compelling. On top of that, the writing is extremely visual, forcefully propelling Chase through a complex series of interrelated encounters in both this world and the next, and bringing it all to a satisfying resolution. It’s a book worth your attention. Dream State: The Sleeping Detective Series Book One

Island Girl Mystery/ Romance (part 5 rated PG17)

He was awakened by movement and lay silently in bed trying listen. The room was pitch black. He realized it was the slight sway of the bed that had awakened him. She was getting in beside him. He cleared his throat, and said softly, “Hello?” She slipped under the covers and laid down next to him, her hip and legs touching his.

“Jane?”

“It’s okay,” she said, gently patting his arm. “It will be good now.”

She adjusted herself, then didn’t move. He lay quietly, feeling her body heat and listening to her gentle breathing. After a minute, he started to get up, but she held onto his arm and he lay back.

“Don’t,” she whispered.

“But, I –”

“Shhhh,” she said. “I’m almost asleep.”

The gentle patter of falling rain was the only sound now. Occasionally, a drop tapped against the window, like a finger flexing against the glass. Her breathing was deep and regular. He closed his eyes, feeling his body melt into hers. She was small next to him, frail almost, and very hot. He was tempted to slide closer for the heat, but didn’t move. It had been a while since he’d been sober and in bed with a woman. He thought how he may get excited in spite of himself and would want to do something with her. Moving closer would feel like heaven. Then he thought of his wife and how her body felt next to his. This girl’s body was different, smaller. Maybe she was warmer than his wife. He thought about the many times his wife would climb on top of him, in the morning just after waking up, and he would melt into her. She would ride him and always climaxed very easily, she would be right there with him. She had learned how to do that for herself, she had told him, and he was happy for that.

     The girl moved, and the bed swayed a bit. He lay still, not wanting to encourage contact while he was thinking of his wife. Cheating was something he’d never done, and now he felt like a cheater, because he wanted the girl. Her warmth next to him lit a fire he thought was dead. Desire is something for lovers, not drunken fools. The whiskey came into his thoughts and he saw himself taking a huge swallow of the cold sting, savoring it as it burned his throat and warmed his stomach. A wave of unsteadiness washed over him, as if he had actually taken that drink. Then he realized avoiding bad feelings was what brought the thoughts of drinking. Taking a deep breath, he tried to relax, and push the taste of whiskey from his mind.

     Her smell came to him, and he could discern the salty sweetness of her skin. He moved further away from her, and thought he might finally drift off, when she came closer and cuddled up to his backside. His eyes popped open and his heart raced, but he didn’t move. She melted into his back and he could feel her soft breath against his neck. He thought about how it would be if she reached for him. He could feel himself growing, and wanted her to take hold while he thought about her scent, and the softness of her body. After a few minutes of being still, his thoughts shifted to his life and his family, then about his drinking and his writing. He wanted to start a new novel, now that the drinking was at bay. Perhaps the girl would inspire some ideas. Perhaps she was the beginning of a new story. Soon, he felt the weight of his fatigued body, and let his muscles relax. He stopped thinking about writing and the girl and listened to the steady drop of rain outside his window, and soon drifted off into a deep sleep.

     In the morning he was alone in the bed. Light streamed in through the windows, which he never bother to curtain. He could hear the gentle splashing of water coming from the kitchen. He slid into his mocks and T-shirt and walked to the door and peered into the kitchen. She stood at the sink, bare chested, dabbing herself with a wet towel. She wore her jeans, and nothing else. Her back was well contoured and muscled, her youthful skin slightly tanned. She turned and saw him looking at her, but didn’t stop washing.

“I have a shower. The rain barrel should be full after yesterday,” he said.

“You have a rain barrel?”

“Yes, it’s mounted on the roof. It feeds down into the shower.”

“I didn’t notice,” she said, and turned to him, exposing herself. Her breasts were firm, small and white. Tan lines marked her bathing top. Water glistened off her upper neck and ran down onto her waist. He smiled and turned to go back into the bedroom.

He sat on the bed while he dressed, slipped on his mocs and walked to the door. She was already standing there waiting for him.

“I wouldn’t mind a shower, actually,” she said.

“In there,” he said, pointing to the bathroom adjacent to his bedroom. “It’s small and the water kind of trickles out, but it works. You’re welcome to it.” She walked in past him, her eye on the bathroom door.

“Keep in mind, it may be cold, though. No water heater.”

She turned to him. “Why don’t you have a water heater? You have gas, don’t you?”

“I don’t know. Didn’t want to lug it all the way from the mainland, I guess.”

She said, “Cold showers come in handy, here on the island?”

He smiled. She turned and walked into the bathroom.

In the kitchen, he made pancakes from flour, eggs, milk, salt and baking powder. He added some vanilla and a touch of cinnamon. He fried bacon and eggs-over-easy in the big skillet. When he was done cooking, he stacked the pancakes on a large platter and placed it on the kitchen table. He didn’t have any maple syrup, so he put honey and powdered sugar on the table. When the eggs and bacon were cooked, he placed them on a separate plate, and put that down on the table. The coffee percolated and was strong, the way he liked it.

When he finally sat down at the table, she appeared in the doorway of his bedroom. She was fully dressed in her own clothes and held a towel to dry her hair. “Wow,” she said, looking at the food. She sat at the table, the towel wrapped around her neck, and reached for the pancakes. “I can’t believe you made these,” she said. “Do you have any strawberries?” He saw a youthfulness in her manner that he hadn’t seen before. She was from a different generation. She probably saw him as an old man. And he thought he was too old for her, maybe. But why would he think such things now?

“No strawberries. But if you want, blackberries grow on the island. Up on the ridge, just over there.” He pointed to the door. “We can hunt for some later.”

“You’re a forager, huh?”

“Not really.”

She slapped a few pancakes onto her plate and added powdered sugar, then poured herself a cup of the steaming coffee. He was pleased she ate so well and liked his coffee. He took a few pancakes and ate them with bacon and the eggs, runny on his plate. 

When they were done eating, they sat quietly for a few moments. Birds chirped in the front yard. He got up and opened the door. After listening to the birds and the gentle calling of gulls at the shore, he said, “So, these people coming to get you, you think they’ll be here soon?”

“No,” she said, and got up to look out the front door. “I don’t think anyone is coming.”

“Oh? That’s not what you said last night.”

“I feel a lot better today.”

“That’s good, but how does that change anything?”

She looked away. “You’re a good cook.”

“Sometimes, when I try.”

“I can see that. I try and things suck. They never pan out.” She leaned on the doorframe, still listening to the birds. “Do you think that’s where the expression pan-out comes from? From cooking?”

“I don’t know.”

“Or gold diggers?” she laughed.

“From prospectors, maybe.”

She turned to him and smiled. “That’s what I meant. Or the movies. Don’t movie cameras pan out?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I want to know what we’re going to do with you. See how that pans out.”

She held onto the door frame and swung back and forth, like a child. “Oh, clever. How many ways can we use that expression? How about if I pan over here and go out the door?”

She walked outside. He followed her onto the porch. She stared at the trail leading to the center of the island. “That’s the way, right? Up that hill?” She pointed.

“What’s that?”

“Let’s get some.”

“What?”

“Blackberries. Show me where they are.”

“They’re all over. You just go out and find them.”

“What if I pick something poisonous and eat it? What then?”

“Then…I don’t know. You get sick and die, I guess.”

“Great! Remind me not to eat poison with you around. Show me where they are.”

She walked toward to trail, then stopped and looked at him. “Come on. You have to stop me from eating poison berries.” She put her hands to her throat and made a gagging sound.

“Wait,” he said, and went back into the cottage. He returned carrying a small bucket.

“Oh, we’re gonna get a lot them,” she said.

“They’re easy to catch.”

The sun peeked out from clouds, illuminating the bay in bright slips of silver and blue. The wind gusted sharply and cut through the trees clinging to scourged shoreline. Cool air rippled across the bay. The few remaining storm-clouds moved quickly across the sky, as if they in a hurry to get somewhere.

The interior of the island held onto coalescing moisture and heated by the sun. Foliage surrounding the trail released warm vapor into the air. They walked further away from the shore, and the air was still and dense, with fragrances from the plant life. Northern Bayberry bushes gave off a surprisingly strong scent. She broke a small sprig if it off in her hand and smelled her fingers. The sounds of the bay were muffled. The dirt trail that was well worn near the house, quickly diminished as they walked farther into the field. Soon, tall grass and bushes caressed their legs as they walked.

The island was only a mile long and about a half mile wide. The center held tall pine trees that through many seasons, produced thick needle beds and was well shaded by the tall trees. On the outskirts of the woods, partially hidden in the tall grass, they found blackberry bushes.

“So many!” The girl said, with delight, and started to eat the berries.

“Wait. We should wash them first,” he said.

She popped another one into her mouth and laughed. “They’re ripe and delicious.”

They quickly filled the small bucket to half way. “That’s enough” he said. “We can make blackberry pancakes.”

“Or something else,” she said, smiling.

“You don’t like my pancakes?”

“Is that all you make?”

“Of course not,” he said, feigning annoyance. “You saw me eat lobster and corn.”

“Oh, yeah.” She tilted her head and looked at him. “I forgot. When was that?”

He frowned. “You don’t remember?”

“I’m not sure.” She placed a few berries in the bucket and suddenly looked lost, like she was remembering or daydreaming. He saw this and made light of the situation.

“I bet I can beat you back to the cottage,” he said, and started walking quickly back down the path.

“Hey,” she yelled, and laughed and ran after him.

He had seen the small boat approaching the dock as they rounded the corner, closer to the cottage. A ten or twelve-foot whaler outboard. Two men in the craft. The girl didn’t see the boat, and he decided not to say anything. They entered the cottage and he placed the bucket in the sink.

“Why don’t you wash those and I’ll be right back,” he said.

“Where are you going?”

“Down to the dock. I need to check a crab trap. Maybe we can make crab cakes.”

“Blackberry crab cakes,” she said smiling, then frowned. “Sounds awful.”

He was halfway to the dock when he turned and saw her behind him, standing at the trail-head. When the two men climbed out of the boat, she ran back to the cottage.

Now On Audible!

This Could Make A Cool Movie – Overall A Very Entertaining Listen

Wow, what a mystifying and gripping story. Hinckley successfully messes with your head and shows you just how weird alien life could turn out to be. I found it reminiscent of both 2001: A Space Odyssey (just sans all the monkey stuff) and the Hyperion books, without being derivative. Though many of the ideas in this book are not in and of themselves original, the execution and marrying of those ideas turns this into a fresh and thrilling tale.

This book is written in present tense and initially I found it a bit jarring, especially in third person limited. It makes the descriptions seem too flowery and the characters’ actions too deliberate when they aren’t, not really. Almost like reading a screenplay. The story also takes a while to really get going but that ends up adding to the mystery.

Overall I found myself seeking opportunities to listen so I could find out what happens next, which is the mark of a good audiobook, (I withhold the fifth star only because I reserve that for things that completely smash my mind). I finished it in less than a day. A very entertaining listen.

Dreaming Wide Awake

Dreaming Wide Awake

Prologue

The dead steal my dreams. They come into my head and play pinball with my thoughts, my emotions, my very life. Pick a night, any night:

My heart pounds. I can barely make out the digits on my clock as they jump in a frantic dance. Are my eyes that dry? I can barely make out the numbers. My guess is four AM. The ringing in my ears is louder. I close my eyes and breathe deeply.  Cool air fills my lungs. I open my eyes, a dark spot, like an evil cloud in the shape of a man in a long robes hovers in front of me. As my eyes adjust, the dark man dissolves into shadows. My back is drenched in sweat. I shiver and wrap the sheets around my body. Another clawing death dream has shaken me to my core.

I turn on the bed-side lamp and grab a pen and look around for paper. I tear the cover off a magazine and take notes. It was dark. Outside, perhaps. In a park. The woman was in her late thirties. Dark shoulder length hair. Somebody was attacking her. Did I see a knife? A mugging? And her scream. The same bloody scream I’d heard in countless dreams. Just remembering it sends shivers down my back.

I sip water from the glass I keep by the bed for just such emergencies, and take another deep breath. My heart begins to slow. I lie back, saying aloud, “Please, Just make it stop….”

But in that clawing plea, the only thing I’d managed to make go away was my girlfriend of six months. She’d had enough of the nightly carnage, the fitful dreams, screaming in the night, pushing her out of bed. After almost strangling her in her sleep, she finally moved on. Because I couldn’t. I’d give up everything, all my measly possessions: my clothes, prized record collection, new computer, TV, bank account, everything I own, if only it would just stop.

Ripping through another person’s fate is exhausting. The violence is terrifying. I’ve seen people hit by cars, shot, crushed by busses…you get the idea.

My last case began with black sedan careening over the side of a bridge and falling a hundred feet into a raging river. Both occupants were killed. But that was my precognition. That was just a dream. They hadn’t died…yet. So, I sought out the victims and tried to warn them. But they wouldn’t listen. (Most my warnings often unheeded.) They were killed a week later in the exact same accident I saw in my dream. But, hey, who doesn’t have quirks? I’m a damn good detective.

Infinity 7

“Powerful and compelling, “Infinity 7″ by Charles R. Hinckley is a riveting psychological sci-fi adventure that readers won’t soon forget!  When suspicious communication comes from the Metis 3 Space Station requesting a team to investigate malfunctions and the possibility of alien life forms, astronaut and astrophysicist John Collins knows he is headed back to space.  Developer of the Metis Space Program, Collins has dedicated his professional career to this project, at great personal cost, and will do whatever it takes to keep the funding flowing for this research. Discovery of alien spores found in soil samples have been mishandled by Forrest, one of the techs, putting the entire station in danger of contamination.  Strange behavior from the crew and the mainframe computer system suggest alien forces have taken over as an entranced crew member is determined to destroy the space station.  Fighting hallucinations and madness caused by exposure to the spore toxins, John Collins is in for the fight of his life and the future of the earth.  This story is a fantastic read!  I really enjoyed the writing – Hinckley has a talent for creating vivid, colorful, life-like descriptions in every paragraph, and not a word is wasted. The plot-line is complex without being overwhelming; the various layers of the story are sophisticated and round out the entire story as a whole.    The author’s imagination seems limitless as the creativity displayed in the scenes and the settings compel the reader to plow through the pages…”

Brownstone Diary

September 23, 1983

I’m standing on dark brown linoleum, my foot narrowly escaping a cockroach as it scurries under the day bed. The room is dark, tall, with ten-foot ceilings. The beige paint is chipping out in large, continent shaped patches, little South Americas, Africa hanging by a thread. Shelves line the walls above the sofa. Good, a book case. The day bed comes with the room. A bent screen is jammed into the open window and I can hear traffic noise, but at least it’s on the ground floor. I look over at my potential roommate, Jim. He’s upbeat, about thirty five, good looking; almost game show host-like in his mannerisms and enthusiasm.

What the hell, “I’ll take it,” I say.

Three hundred and fifty a month, how can you go wrong? A bedroom with a private entrance connected to a small hall and bath. And the rooms are big, if not crumbling out of themselves. I convince myself that with a little bit of paint, it’ll be like new.

“Good!” he says, “Let’s get a drink.”

We wander across Second Avenue and up the hill to the Bull’s Eye tavern. They know Jim there and he seems to be well liked, this game show host roommate of mine. And why not, he’s athletic, got a great smile, dimpled chin, a full shock of hair. We sit in front of a couple of drafts and he casually asks, “By the way, you know I’m gay, right?”

A little twinge hits my stomach. Is he looking at my crotch? Why isn’t he effeminate? I never would have guessed he’s gay. Does he have orgies in his room? I look at the bartender. Now they think I’m gay, right? “Well, I’m not gay,” I say.

Oh, he assures me, I don’t flaunt it. I don’t care for fems, he says. Besides, this is strictly a business deal. Rent for a room. It wasn’t in the ad, but I don’t really care, “Sure, sure. No problem.”

After I pile in my few meager possessions, bags of clothes and my desk from home, I encamp on the day bed. First nights are always the hardest. Cramped and lonely in my little burrow, I learn not to be afraid of things that crawl in the dark and scatter when the lights come on. Lying in the blackened room, they crawl casually across my arm, and I fling the insects onto the wall or floor. I reach up with the side of my fist and pound them into submission, letting them fall where they may.

At four AM, the heavy cruisers arrive. I hear then scuttling and munching on God knows what. The armored division attacks my front. I brush my arm and a heavy thud hits the floor. That was no small insect. I turn the lights on. The floor and walls are alive with brown exoskeletons scattering in all directions.

September 24, 1983

My second evening is less strained. I take comfort in my newly purchased roach motels and poison traps. Already, there are fewer insects to be seen. Suddenly, I hear something at the window. A dark bare arm slowly reaches in through the curtains, fingers outstretched, reaching, ready to grasp. I yell, “Hey!” The arm jerks to attention and recoils as if wound back onto a human fishing reel. I close the window and lock the doors, unsettled, I’m feeling lost in the whirr of the city.

September 30, 1983

I wouldn’t say Jim is a health nut, but he sure does like to run. Right up to Central Park and back every day. Lifts weights in the kitchen, too. Breathes real loud and strong to get that energy flowing. One, two, three twist and turn, up and down, deep knee bends, come on, one and two, his thick boozy breath billowing into all corners of the room, like a steam bath in there when he gets going. It’s tough to swallow my scrambled eggs with all that going on. Amazing how he can stay up until three a.m. sucking up all that booze and pop right back up the next morning… two, three, and here we go and one. Shouldn’t complain, though. It’s tough to find a first floor apartment this cheap on the Upper East Side.

October 2, 1983

I’m waiting tables while I take classes in acting: Shakespeare, scene study, auditioning technique. I have a long way to go. Feel lost in a sea of false hope and groundless optimism leading nowhere. Auditions go badly. I’ve met a few girls in acting class. Made a few friends. I am building a life, my own life, while learning to be a good waiter.

Jan 7, 1984

Jim throws me a surprise party for my thirtieth birthday. Friends from work, some of his friends, they all chip in, buy me a mattress for the wooden frame that I had made from cut pine and bolts. Fits real nice. Damn nice of these guys, friends of Jim’s, mostly, acquaintances of mine. Damn nice.

We finished the evening with another bottle of wine. A girl from the tavern offers herself to me as a present. Can’t complain about that. Damned nice of her. Damned nice. Six months is a long time. Later, we talk on the stoop in front of her apartment until 3 a.m. I’ll have to avoid her for a while. Don’t want to give the wrong impression.

Jan 25, 1984

I come home unexpectedly and my private entrance is locked. I pound on the door, hear shuffling noises in the room and creaking from my desk chair. Jim calls for me to wait a minute. Finally, after several minutes, he unlocks the door. I hear them as they scurry into his side of the apartment, Jim and his secret guest. Later I learn he was glad I had arrived when I did, not knowing what the strange man might have done, Jim being naked and tied up in my favorite chair.

February 25, 1984

Jim has decided to kill himself. Seems he’s unhappy with his life. The booze and the cocaine, the anonymous sex, have all taken their toll. AIDS has crept into the picture. A nurse friend told us about hygiene and the treatment for the afflicted. She scared me half to death and I went out and bought some liquid soap for the bath. No more sharing bar soap for this kid. Jim was greatly offended by the soap, but I told him we always used the liquid at home, I’m just homesick for it. I know Jim doesn’t have AIDS. I think.

February 28, 1984

Three AM. Jim is weepy. He staggers into my room, wakes me up, and tells me he wants to kill himself. I ask him how and he tells me to mind my own business, but if I must know, he has a hoard of pills. I tell Shirley, our mutual friend from the Bull’s Eye and she comes over to search his room while he’s gone out. She finds pills, but there isn’t enough to kill him, just maybe make him sleep for a day or two.

March 3, 1984

I feel terrible about Jim. I confide in a friend at work. He tells me there is nothing for it, he had a roommate that killed himself and he was just a selfish prick, tells me people who off themselves are all selfish pricks. I worry anyway, thinking how unfair it all is.

March 5, 1984

Pills gone, Jim has decided to kill himself the slowest way possible. He stays up all night snorting cocaine, and drinking with his new buddies, the drug dealers. They play cards until morning light; argue about nonsense, thinking they are being clever when they are repetitive and shallow. They offer Jim money for my room; have them move in, me out. Jim turns them down, but likes to tell me about the offers anyway. I find a .22 caliber bullet on the kitchen floor.

Jim comes from a big, Irish Catholic family in the mid-west somewhere. His sister talks to me on the phone, thinks I’m his lover. She wants to know if he’s really all right. I lie; tell her he’s just fine. She seems relieved. What can she do anyway, I think. It’s not like she’s going to come rescue him. Yeah, he’s fine. Well, take care of him, she says. I don’t bother to tell her, he’s just my roommate and I try to avoid him as much as possible.

March 25, 1984

I am finally alone in the apartment! Some much needed alone time! My resentment toward Jim has peaked and I sing aloud, “Ding dong, the master baiter’s gone!” to the tune of “Ding dong the Witch is Dead,” while I make popcorn. I dance with delight at my free evening at home. Jim suddenly emerges from his closet. He’s been hiding behind his wardrobe and wants to spring out and surprise me. Now he wants to know what I meant by “The master baiter” crack. He pulls out his stash of gay porno mags, stained with some odd smelling oils, and asks me if this is to what I am referring. I don’t know what to say. The greasy stained magazines flop around in his hands. I look at the greasy bottle of corn oil I used to make the popcorn. Was that a pubic hair stuck to the label?

April 23, 1984

Jim’s friend Rico, the drug dealer from Brazil, and his heroin-addicted girl friend, Sheila, need a place to stay. Jim lets them put a mattress on the kitchen floor. Jim is very helpful like that. Rico has a lot of phone calls to make to his drug-dealing friends. They come to the door and he leaves with them. Sal, from New Jersey, came by the other day and he seemed quite angry about something. Sorry I answered the door, really. But Rico and Sal went for a walk and worked it out. Afterward, Rico bought a bunch of shrimp and cooked them in water and beer. He insisted I eat with him. They tasted pretty good, once I realized they weren’t poisoned.

May 3, 1984

Rico’s girlfriend, Sheila, is feeling pretty sick. They sit in the bathtub together for hours sometimes; they take the phone in there and make business calls. I hear that Rico has offered Jim lots of money for my room, but Jim says not to worry, he wouldn’t kick me out. Although, he hints, the extra money would be nice.

The landlady came down and asked me for the rent today. Seems she hasn’t seen any money for a few months. I told her I just give my money to Jim. It’s his place. He pays the rent. (I guess not.) I haven’t seen Jim for a while to talk to him about it.

May 27, 1984

Rico and Sheila finally move out. Am seeing less and less of Jim, now. He lost his job at the good restaurant and now he’s working for a not-so-nice place on the West side. Makes less money. I have been talking to the landlady about letting me move into an empty apartment upstairs.

June 15, 1984

I finally have my own place. Up five floors, but it’s worth it. Two bedrooms, kitchen and a bath! Jim knocked on the door the other day, but I pretended I wasn’t home. He scares me now. Not like the person I met at all. That far away look in his eyes makes me think he is the loneliest person on Earth. But I’ve made up my mind I can’t help him. I need to live my own life.

July 2, 1984

They finally came and took Jim home today. He’d been unable to function for about a month. He was too afraid to leave the apartment. His sister and brother bought him a ticket and he’s gone. I don’t even know who’s in the apartment downstairs now. Some creepy guy he had move in a while ago. Poor Jim, all he wanted to do was be an actor.

Island Girl (part 2)

Sunlight streamed in through a break in the curtains and he could see a wall of tiny dust particles dancing in its beams. He thought of vacuuming the rug, but had only a mechanical sweeper. Ever since he brought that rug to the island, he’d seen particles floating above it.

The sound of running water pricked up his ears. He didn’t understand why water would be splashing in the kitchen. Perhaps a bird had come in during the night and was caught in the sink. He lay in bed listening to the faint gurgle and splashing. The gentle trickle of water falling. He sat up and looked toward the sound. His bedroom door was ajar. He got up and looked into the kitchen. A girl stood over the sink, washing her face and neck. She wore a blue plaid shirt, a red sweatshirt wrapped around her waist, blue jeans and dirty white canvas sneakers. Her hair was dark, almost black, but as she pulled at the wet curls it appeared, in the sunbeams from the skylight, a very dark brown color with reddish highlights, and was thick and wavy. When she was finished pulling at her hair, she looked around the counter top for something to dry it with.

“Hello” he said.

She turned sharply, pointing a long kitchen knife in his direction. Her fearful look startled him and he took a step back.

“That towel is dirty,” he said, pointing to the rag by the sink. “I’ll bring you a clean one.”

She took a step away from the sink, her eyes fixed on him. He went to his bed, pulled on his trousers, stepped into his moccasins, then got a towel from the linen closet in the bathroom, and brought it to the kitchen. He stood a few feet away from her and offered her the towel. She slowly reached out with one hand, holding the knife in the other, and took the offering. “Thank you,” she said, in a small voice.

“I have plenty of food,” he said. “I can cook something. Do you want breakfast?”

She smelled the towel, then slowly dried her hair and face. Her eyes very light blue, a color he’d never seen before on a human being.

“You can cook if you want,” she said.

“You can put that knife away. I’m not gonna hurt you.”

She held the towel in front of her chest and slowly slid the knife into the sink.

“Good,” he said. “I generally eat big in the morning.”

She shrugged and turned to look at the fireplace. He followed her eyes and said, “Fire went out last night.”

“I can build one,” she said.

“Okay.”

She walked to the fireplace. He went to the refrigerator to get eggs and ham and bread. He watched her out of the corner of his eye as she stacked kindling on the ashes and fanned the coals. She crumpled up newspaper and placed in underneath and the wood started to burn. She placed a few medium sized logs onto the fire and the flames quickly grew.

He hand pumped well-water into the coffee pot, then put it on the gas stove to percolate. Cracking open the eggs, he placed them in a large, black pan, and laid slices of ham-steak in, and it sizzled and popped from the heat. He placed slices of bread on the old fashioned, pyramid shaped toaster that fit neatly over the gas burner. The eggs crackled and popped and he turned them gently, so as not to break the yolks. While he cooked, she warmed herself by the fire.

“I can tell you’re all right by looking at you,” he said, and wanted to ask why she was there, but decided to let her speak in her own time. Perhaps she was lost or running from something. She cleared her throat and looked as if she was about to speak, but said nothing. “I’ll give you a lift back to the mainland, if you like. Or I’ll give you gas or whatever you want for your boat, but that’s as far as we go.”

 She warmed her hands by the flames. “It’s a good fire,” she said. “I was cold. The wood is dry. Burns good.”

“It’s been in the woodbin for over a year, more or less. I get oak from the mainland. Oak burns best, I think. Dense wood. Not like pine.”

     He placed the eggs, ham and toast on two plates and placed them on the table. He poured two cups of coffee and set one down for her. “Come and eat.” He stood in front of his place and waited. She walked slowly to the table and sat, never taking her eyes off of him. He sat and smiled at her and said, “Best breakfast in town.” She smiled and picked up her fork.

She looked to be about twenty, he figured. Definitely not younger. Perhaps, as old as twenty five, now that he had a good look at her. She glanced at him and he blushed, wondering how she got the eyes of a husky. She wasn’t light skinned enough to be an albino, but she had fair coloring. Her lips were full and her nose was small.

“Where are you from?” he asked. She frowned and poked her food with a fork. “Aren’t you gonna try my coffee? I make strong coffee.” She gave a slight smile and made a show of sipping from the cup, although it didn’t look like she took any into her mouth. “You want some water?” he asked. She vigorously shook her head. He got a large pitcher from the fridge and grabbed a glass from the cabinet and placed both in front of her. She filled the glass and quickly drank it down. Then she dank another, and another.

“I hope you didn’t try to drink that water that runs in the sink. That’s not potable.”

He watched her gulp down a full glass of water. “You’re dehydrated,” he said.

She looked eagerly at him and licked her lips. “Yes, I think I am. I wasn’t thirsty before and now I am.”

“Why would you be so dehydrated?”

“I was at sea.”

“How long?”

“I swam for a whole night.”

“What about your boat?”

“It’s gone.”

He did the calculations in his head. The currents run swiftly through slots between the islands. Either she was a very slow swimmer, or the tidal current brought her in from one of the outer islands. Perhaps, Jewell Island, the last island before you hit the open ocean. That would be about five or six miles to the East.

“It sunk?” he asked.

“Hit a rock or something. Heavy seas. I don’t remember the rest.”

He hadn’t heard about a shipwreck, certainly not nearby. The radio would have been crackling with the news. There had been very stormy weather the day before yesterday, but something wasn’t adding up. “You’re telling me you wrecked and then you swam here?”

“I think so.”

“You had a life vest?” She said nothing.  “Was anybody else onboard?”

“I don’t remember.”

“Was it a ship, like a cruise ship, a private yacht, a sailing ship, what?”

“I…” She stood up. “I don’t think…” She ran outside and leaned over the porch railing. He heard her gagging, and walked over to see if he could help.

“You drank too fast,” he said. “You’ll be okay. Come sit by the fire. ” She turned to look at him and her blue-white eyes sparkled in the morning sun. 

     They went inside and sat in front of the fire. He sipped coffee from a mug. She sipped a glass of water. Her color came back, what little there was in her pale skin, and her eyes were less glassy. “What’s your name?” he asked her. She stared at the fire and said nothing. Then she extended her right hand in front of her, stretching the fingers out. She looked at the back of her hand, then at the palm, and said, “My hand looks the same. Familiar. But I don’t remember my name.” He took that as nonsense and looked at her for a few minutes, noting the sweep of hair across her forehead, the tight, almost pore-less skin of her face. “What do you mean, familiar?”

“I mean, I know it. It’s mine.” She looked again at her hand and smiled, then turned back to the fire.

“What’s the last thing you remember?”

“Coming to this island. Standing on the shore, and watching you…by the fire.”

“Last night.”

“Was it?”

He nodded.

“Oh” she said, in a soft voice.

“I was aware of you in the bush. You should have come to the fire.”

She stared at the flames and tussled her hair. She had a slow, dreamy quality about her now, and she could barely keep her eyes open. She stretched out on the sofa and closed her eyes. He got up and moved her feet onto the cushions, then got a blanket from the bedroom and placed it over her. He watched her breathing as it grew shallow. The flare of her nostrils became less pronounced. Once she was asleep, he walked back into the kitchen to finish breakfast. 

He split wood in the back yard. The stack, dropped off from the mainland a week earlier, was good oak, ready to be split and dried, and he was making headway. As he heaved the heavy blade, he could feel an occasional cool breeze as the afternoon winds shifted. It was sunny and hotter inland, and he removed his shirt when it started to stick to his back. The sea breeze kicked up and cooled his sweaty skin. The ax was heavy and double bladed, and the oak split easily. Wiping his brow, he turned to see her emerge from the cottage. As he strained to scratch an itchy spot behind his shoulders, he felt her hand move in slow circles against his flesh. He stiffened and turned to her. “How are you feeling?” he asked, placing the ax against to the woodpile. 

“Like I’m dreaming.”

“You need food, and more to drink.” She gave him a slight smile and stared at him, as if she were witnessing something completely new. “How long were out in the water?”

“I don’t remember, exactly. It’s a blur. No longer than a day, I think. And part of the night.”

“Where were you headed?”

“I don’t know.”

“Who was with you? How many onboard?”

She frowned and took a step toward the cottage. He placed a hand on her shoulder and she turned to him. “I want to help, but I don’t know anything about you,” he said. “What’s your name? Do you have family?”

“I don’t feel right,” she said. He release his hand and she walked toward the cottage.

“I only want to help.” He put his shirt back on and followed her inside.

     She was sitting at the kitchen table, her head down. He brought the pitcher of water and filled a glass. She sipped and stared down at the table, her thick hair obscuring her lovely face. He leaned back against kitchen counter and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m worried you’ve been missing for a while. People are probably worried, probably looking for you. The police-”

“No police,” she interrupted. “There’s no one. I’m alone.”

 “You were alone on the boat?”

“It’s gone.”

“I’m trying to tell you, you can’t just disappear. People will be looking for you.”

Her expression was strangely serene, childlike. He went to the sink and pumped fresh well water into the pitcher. “I live alone. It wouldn’t be right having you here…” He finished refilling the water pitcher and returned it to the fridge. “You understand?” He turned back to her, but she was gone. Her half-empty glass still on the table.

“Hey,” he said loudly. “Hey, kid.”

He walked outside. Everything was as he’d left it. The wind tussled the pines. The tall grass beyond his yard swirled in the gusts. He made his way down to the path leading to the beach. His boat was tied securely to the dock, and bounced freely in the choppy water. Clouds rolled in from the North. The air began to chill. “Hey, kid,” he yelled, against the din of escalating wind. He felt foolish calling her “kid.” She wasn’t a kid. Perhaps, he wasn’t much older than her, he really couldn’t tell. Perhaps, it was her apparent vulnerability that made him call her kid. It could be she wasn’t young at all, but only appeared youthful. What else was he going to call her? And she’d be even more vulnerable in the approaching storm. He wasn’t happy worrying about her, or anyone else for that matter, especially a mixed-up stranger. He had his own troubles. He turned and walked back up the path.

   By the time he reached the cottage, large drops of rain began hitting his head. The precipitation was cold, and sent a chill through him. This caused him to worry even more about the girl. Her infirmity reminded him of his own weakness, and how pained he was at the loss of his family. Simple tasks, like taking out the garbage, or chopping wood, could trigger deep, painful memories, and send him into depression.

     He stood in the storm-darkened kitchen, staring at the open door and the rainy field beyond, and thought of his wife standing in front of him. At first, she was nude. Her strong shapely legs, the pillar of her vibrant body. Then she was dressed in jeans and a pale red T-shirt, the way she was the last time he saw her. She was smiling, her brown hair diffused in back-light, radiating around her head like a golden crown. In his mind, he smiled back. His daughter ran into the room and said something. At first he couldn’t make out the words, but the sound of her voice spun his stomach. He looked at her angelic face, a smear of chocolate outlined her lips.

“Hi Pumpkin,” he said, and smiled, his heart breaking. His throat tightened, and he could feel tears filling his eyes.

What was left of the light in the kitchen succumbed to stormy twilight, as he stared out the open doorway, his mind dull, saturated by inklings of ancient emotions. A feeling of longing made his eyes lose focus, and he stared at nothing for a few moments, floating in the lightness of melancholy. Rain pelted the porch and began wetting the floor where he stood. Blue-black clouds danced and clashed above. A downpour pinged off the metal roof, slowly at first, then more abundantly, enlivening the sounds of gusting wind in sharp staccato rhythms. He stared put at the field and slowly shut the door.  

     He retrieved a box of wooden matches and lit a kerosene lamp. The smell triggered sense memory of the often repeated task, rooting him in the feeling security and home. The smell of the stove, the essence of gas fumes after being lit, the crackle of eggs cooking on the stove, the smell of coffee percolating. He slowly stacked dried kindling, lit the newspapers he’d stuffed underneath and waited until the kindling caught, then added larger pieces of wood, building it into a roaring fire. He sat on the sofa and watched the flames.

A dull ache started behind his eyes, and was exacerbated by the light of the fire.

To Be Cont’d…

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Twelve Bullets (Part two)

bank robbery

Robbery

There were two men at the door and one inside at a table set aside for ciphering. The man outside the bank nodded, signaling all clear, and Roscoe Hunter stepped up to the window. The teller was small man, wore glasses and a long handled mustache that hid his mouth when he talked.

“Yes sir, what can I do for you today? Would you like to open an account?”

“Why you say that?”

The teller looked startled for a second, his eyes darting from the man in front of him to the door and back again, then he smiled. “Well, I’ve never seen you before. I know all my customers.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what. I’m gonna promise I won’t kill you if’n you hand over all the money in that there cash drawer.”

The teller took two steps back, his eyes wide. Roscoe showed him the pistol.

Roscoe leaned in. “Now, easy there. No time for panic. Put you in a bad fix. You want yer bag’o bones without leaden pills, you bes’ start load’n that money.”

The teller nodded, wiped his mustache with the back of his hand and stepped up to the cash drawer.

“There’s only fifty-seven dollars, Mister.” His voice shook.

“Get the other drawer over yonder.” Roscoe pointed to his left, at second teller window.

“That station is closed sir, on account of it being noon. Lunch-time for the other teller, sir.”

Roscoe cocked the pistol. “Well then, go over there and get the money yer self.”

“I, I don’t have the key, sir.” The teller’s hands began to shake.

“Break it open or by God I’m gonna break yer head!” Roscoe rested the pistol on the counter, pointed at the teller.

The teller raised his voice and started acting strangely, hitting his leg with his left hand, his eyes rolling around in his head. ‘Yes, sir! Yes, sir! I’ll get you that cash right away, sir! Yes, sir.”

“Shut up, you.”

The teller twirled around, hitting his face and stomping his boots on the floor. “Yes, sir! I’ll do it! I’ll do it!”

Ben Farley, the fat Irishman who ran the bank, two-fisted a double-barrel shotgun and waddled out of his office to check on the commotion. Roscoe looked at him, and Farley looked at Roscoe. The pistol shot first, hitting Farley in the chest, causing him to pull the shotgun back and fire. The blast took out the front window of the bank and hit a horse tied up outside. The horse reared- up, broke loose the rail, and bolted down the street, buckshot holes seeping blood from its rump.

Roscoe jumped the fence to the second teller station, and shot the drawer twice, causing more screaming from the crazy teller. The three customers inside the bank were on the floor covering their heads in their hands. The draw was shot to splinters, but wouldn’t budge. Roscoe pried it open with the stolen Bowie knife. The teller continued to twirl in circles behind him, holding his ears and yelling something about brick-ovens and marmalade. Roscoe pushed him in the back. The teller squealed and keeled over like a dead fish.

Outside the bank, curious bystanders squawked at seeing real bank robbers. When the shotgun blast shattered the window and hit the horse, one bystander tried to stop it by jumping for the reins. A portion of the fence, still tied to the horse, hit him on the head, knocking him out cold middle of the street.

Roscoe and his boys jumped on their horses, hooting and hollering, and firing into the air.

To Be Cont’d…

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